Posted 22 May 2011, by K. Kaufmann, MyDesert.com, mydesert.com
On a recent morning in Joshua Tree, Jill Giegerich dug into the rich, composted soil of her new desert garden, and the earth moved.
“I dug my glasses out of my pocket to take a closer look,” the 58-year-old artist wrote on her blog, Mind in the Sand.
“I don’t know how else to put it — the soil was alive! I got down closer and saw that it was full of life — worms, squirmy things, incredibly small glistening entities, all ploughing themselves back and forth in the humus.”
Giegerich’s garden and blog are part of a mid-life transformation that has taken her from the fast-track art scene in Los Angeles through a messy divorce to her current life in the high desert, promoting innovative ideas for sustainable homes and communities.
In addition to her garden, she and her partner, Sequoia Smith, are renovating a home as a model of permaculture, which is the science and art of designing sustainable living systems based on nature.
“We’re now in the process of gutting (the house) and reworking the water pipes for gray water,” she said. “We’re going to do solar water heat.
“In permaculture, you start right in the center and work your way out. We’re reworking all the systems in the house and then we will put in long, double-glazed windows on the south side,” she said.
A greenhouse, fruit trees and trees providing food and shelter for desert animals will follow, she said.
Taking the permaculture concept one stop further, Giegerich is also the creative spark behind Transition Joshua Tree, a grassroots group working to build a resilient and sustainable local economy.
The group takes its name from Transition US, an umbrella organization of similar community initiatives formed to find local solutions to the challenges of climate change, the shifting economy and the need to make the transition from fossil fuels.
“If an ecosystem is resilient and receives a shock — a flood or a drought — it has more of an ability to bounce back,” said Carolyne Stayton, executive director of Transition U.S. “It’s the bounce-back part of that we’re trying to build with the Transition town movement.”
About 90 local groups are officially registered with the national organization, Stayton said, and dozens more, such as Transition Joshua Tree, are forming.
“I think people are seeing — they are feeling in their lives — we are at a critical tipping point in human survival,” Giegerich said. “The decisions we make now are all about whether we are going to continue existing on the planet.
“This model is a way we can do it, but we have to do it now and we have to do it with our whole heart.”